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expert reaction to Prince Andrew’s claims regarding his ability to sweat

In a TV interview Prince Andrew claimed that he is unable to sweat due to past trauma whilst in the military. 


Professor Dorothy C Bennett MA PhD FMedSci,  Director, Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute, St. George’s, University of London, said:

“I have come across anhidrosis (lack of function of sweat glands), as a genetic condition during my research.  So indeed this does exist.

“I understand it can also have external causes including trauma to the skin or the nerves to the skin,  and also certain medications.  Both of these are general possibilities during service in the Falklands, although I don’t know whether any specific medications given to servicemen can do this, nor whether Andrew suffered any such physical trauma at that time.    Perhaps extreme cold might cause skin damage, for instance.   (But I’m a scientist, not a dermatologist.)”

Prof Bennett also added: 

“Prince Andrew said that his lack of sweating had followed high adrenalin levels associated with being shot at.  

“This is indeed a known mechanism.  Quote here from abstract of an old publication on anhidrosis (deficient sweating) in horses:

“Lack of sweating could be due to a number of possible flaws in a sequence from central nervous stimulation through sweat stimulation and secretion to delivery of sweat to the skin surface. The most likely possibilities are inadequate sweat gland response due to habituation* of receptors to a high circulating level of epinephrine and occlusion of the sweat ducts by keratin plugs. Hormonal or metabolic imbalance may play a role both in the onset and secondary signs associated with anhidrosis.”

Equine anhidrosis: a review of pathophysiologic mechanisms.  Warner A, Mayhew IG.  Vet Res Commun. 1983 Sep;6(4):249-64.

* Habituation means here that a normal response of sweating in response to epinephrine (adrenalin) is regulated downwards if there is excessive stimulation of the cellular receptor for epinephrine.


Declared interests

Prof Bennett: No conflict of interest 

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